Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Developmental Mathematics Success: Impact of Students' Knowledge and Attitudes

Academic journal article Journal of Developmental Education

Developmental Mathematics Success: Impact of Students' Knowledge and Attitudes

Article excerpt

In recent years, much attention has been focused on students taking developmental courses (Bonham & Boylan, 2012; Rosin, 2012). Statistics indicate that almost 60% of students who enroll in community colleges must take developmental mathematics before they are eligible to enter college-level coursework (Bailey, 2009; Schwartz, 2007). Additionally, in the California State University (CSU System) in 2008, approximately 56% of all entering freshmen required remediation in mathematics and/or English (Johnson, 2010); in 2011, over 30% offirst-time freshmen needed to do so specifically in mathematics (California State UniversitySystem, 2012). In a study done in Nevada in 2006/7, more than one-third (37.6%) of students entering a two- or four-year institution of higher education required remediation in mathematics (Fong, Huang, 8c Goel, 2008). Furthermore, 80% of lst-year college students taking a developmental course at public, four-year institutions in 2000 needed to do so in mathematics (Duranczyk 8c Higbee, 2006).

Students are typically placed into required developmental programs by their performance on high-stakes placement exams (Bailey, 2009). Although intended to help support student success in mathematics, remediation can have negative consequences for students, and in some cases can become a barrier for future academic achievement (Noel-Levitz 8c CAEL, 2006). Initial success in mathematics has the potential to provide students with "early momentum," that can contribute to their overall success in college. Conversely, lack of success can discourage them from completing their studies (Rosin, 2012). These students have a longer road to completing mathematics requirements, and many give up before they finish the sequence of courses. Additionally, many students are not successful within these courses; only 30% of students at two-year colleges pass all of the developmental mathematics courses in which they enroll (Attewell, Lavin, Domina, 8c Levey, 2006), and students who need remediation are less likely to complete a degree (Bailey, 2009). Furthermore, taking developmental courses the entire first year is costly, as well as delays graduation for those needing mathematics courses. Time for remediation can also dissuade students from seeking majors that require mathematics.

Why are so many students requiring remediation, and why are some unable to successfully complete it? In order to improve student success within developmental mathematics programs, we need a detailed picture of who these students are, both in terms of their mathematical preparation and affect. For example, do they possess essential skills and attitudes needed to be successful in such courses? Students' negative attitudes and anxiety toward mathematics must be overtly addressed in order to support their academic success and likelihood for pursuing mathematical coursework (Tobias, 1993). Little research exists that explores student traits in developmental courses. We also need to examine how, if at all, their experiences in developmental mathematics courses are enhancing their overall content understandings, skills, and attitudes toward learning mathematics. To this end, the following research questions guided our study of ls,-year students taking required, developmental mathematics courses at a large, urban public university:

1. What are the common characteristics of students taking developmental mathematics courses in terms of their previous mathematics coursework, perceptions of mathematical ability and confidence, and attitudes towards learning mathematics both generally and in their current developmental course?

2. In what ways do students' perceptions of their skill, confidence, and attitudes appear to change after taking a developmental mathematics course, and what factors appear to be affecting those changes?

Review of Relevant Literature

Within the research on developmental mathematics courses, two essential areas are highlighted as important to students' success: (a) a strong alignment between college curriculum (as measured by mathematics placement tests) and high school mathematics curriculum and assessments and (b) positive student affect relative to mathematics (Brown & Niemi, 2007; Gamoran, Porter, Smithson, & White, 1997; Hill, 2008; Willett, Hayward, & Dahlstrom, 2008). …

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